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Monday, April 12, 2021


RuPaul’s Drag Race is usually good at making sure its finale features distinct performance styles, but this season’s final crop of queens feels particularly strong. If you passed through gay Twitter in the last week, you no doubt came across the meme featuring the final four as Charisma (Symone), Uniqueness (Gottmik), Nerve (Kandy) and Talent (RosΓ©). It’s a perfect little display of this season’s special final four.

And, look, I know a lot of folks’ minds are made up about Kandy, but, regardless of the popular vote, Ru clearly sees something in Miss Muse. (After all, this is not a dragocracy; it’s a Ru-tatorship.) Going into the season’s penultimate episode (reunions don’t count!), the Race is so tight, one wrong step, and any one of these queens could sashay away.

I hope you brought some extra press-ons, because this is gonna be a nailbiter. Who impressed the judges? Who made it to the finale? And what advice would you have for your younger self?

Let’s dig in!

By now the final challenge — some sort of highly-choreographed original verse for the latest Ru track — is pretty predictable. The song this time, “Lucky,” is no “Kitty Girl” or “Read U Wrote U” (and certainly no “UK Hun?”), but it’s upbeat, and it’s got an infectious little throwback vibe. Before the big premiere, the queens will go over choreo with Jamal Simms and have a sitdown Tic-Tac talk with Ru and Michelle. Standard penultimate episode stuff.

(As an aside: They frame what was formerly the “What’s the Tee?” podcast as “Inside Drag Race,” a nod to Inside the Actors Studio. It’s a missed opportunity that no one got asked their favorite curse word or what they would like to hear God say when they arrive at the pearly gates. Don’t you want to know what they would have said?)

Each queen gets a fair slice of the spotlight. Gottmik especially has a standout episode. Right from the get-go, Mik is having a ball. It’s such a refreshing change of pace to see someone in a reality competition series just having a ball. I don’t mean in a smug way when they’re winning, or in a delusional way when they think they should be winning (Utica!), but just real joy. It’s infectious. We’re often fed a narrative about someone’s growth over the course of a season, but Gottmik’s arc is the real deal. There’s some sincere wonder and excitement over these discoveries week to week that just feels good to witness.

Mik’s chat with Ru and Michelle benefits from these good vibes. The laughs abound, and it’s impossible not to be similarly charmed. Of course, gender and transition come up in convo, but the scene never dips into the overly sentimental or self-congratulatory. Again, it’s Gottmik’s honesty, candor and wit that tells this story so beautifully without editors and producers laying it on thick. Ru and Michelle are clearly enamored.

The other interviews feels far less revelatory. We learn a bit more about how Symone hooked up with the House of Avalon, moved out of Arkansas and learned to have confidence as Symone. Ru blows the frontrunning queen’s mind by reminding her she can tap into that confidence in AND out of drag. It clearly resonates.

Kandy spends much of her time exchanging reads on her disastrous Haute Pocket runway last week and chatting a bit about turning the things she was teased for into things she flaunts. Speaking of flaunting, Michelle peppers RosΓ© with questions that danced around the popular charge that she’s “weaponizing her B.F.A.” RosΓ© has all the right answers, but felt much more like the stilted, perfectionist RosΓ© we saw early in the competition.

Choreography appears to be evenly applied and plays on each gal’s strengths. Gottmik already is officially a Jamal Simms STAN, but there’s more to love when he intuits that Mik would do better thinking about lyrics rather than steps. RosΓ©, of course, instantly picks up the steps and is 5-6-7-8ing with ease. Kandy is fine, and Symone seems the least at ease, but really it’s by a small margin. The whole episode is determined to showcase these final four as equals.

The actual … performance? video? … is fun. Each queen gets a little sexy boudoir scene, and everyone’s lyrics are delivered strongly. Yes, RosΓ© is the most polished and precise, but I believe it’s Gottmik that’s the most compelling. She bops and bounces perfectly along, capturing the bubblegum spirit while filtering it through her specific artistic lens. It’s a fun song, and no one is having more fun than Mik.

The judges remain equally impressed with all the gals, and then out come the pictures of their younger selves. Ru makes a point of explaining that Gottmik OK’d using the young photo (since sometimes seeing old photos can be painful for trans people). Mik explains to the photo how feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin is a way to grow a thicker one. Kandy offers her younger self hope, while cautioning of dangers along the way. RosΓ© sounds … a little pageanty … but still manages to slip in a little joke and overall a very positive message. Symone gets the most emotional, offering more of that softer side. It really helps explain the motivation underpinning her excellence.

Tonight’s runway is, coincidentally, DRAG EXCELLENCE, so there’s a lot to digest. Gottmik is wearing a black and white polka dot dress with dots that go onto her face and wig. It’s a brilliant choice to include some flesh colored spots and open spaces in her makeup. It just adds another dimension that elevates the overall idea.

Kandy, whose looks have been the most lacking of our final four, finally struts down in a stunner. It’s a colorful corset and mesh number that feels stylish and still a little street. She may be Kandy Muse, but she’s always a little [Kandy] ho, too.

The judges enjoy RosΓ©’s tartan gown, but the shape is just all over for me. It adds a lot of bulk, and, coupled with some unforgiving makeup, it might be one of my least favorite RosΓ© runways.

And do I even need to tell you Symone was sickening, because obviously. With beautiful blonde cornrows and a purple gown with exaggerated sleeves, this was yet another jaw-dropping Symone moment (Symoment?)

After all that, somehow the judges still can’t make up their minds, so Ru asks all four ladies to lip sync, one at a time. Not that I wouldn’t want to hear Whitney Houston’s “I Learned From the Best (HQ2 Radio Mix)” four times, but instead we get a cross-cut of all four performances, and they seem good.

Then, to the surprise of absolutely no one: Ru declares all four are going to the finale. Gorge! So, one last time, where does that leave our ladies? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments.

1. Despite a few stumbles, Symone has maintained her perch atop this competition. Even when she whiffed a challenge — and she did whiff a few — she turned it out on the runway or rebounded with a strong showing the following week. Symone has all the makings of a star. I don’t just mean she’s gorgeous and funny — she is — but she’s also someone who works hard, she’s got a strong sense of self and a gift for expression. There is something undeniable about her presence and her work.

1. That’s right, it’s a tie! While I can’t deny Symone’s star power, I can also no longer deny Gottmik‘s top spot. On a season that sliced and diced and rearranged and brought back the cast so many times, why can’t we have two winners? We’ve done it before! Gottmik has had some of the best runway lewks we have ever, EVER seen and over-delivered in several challenges. There is something deep with Mik that really resonates with Ru, as well. I just can’t imagine any ending without Gottmik or Symone being crowned.

3. There’s not much to add to the RosΓ© discourse. As I mentioned, this episode felt like a step backward as the Scottish queen tried to delicately navigate a chat with Ru and nail the final choreo. RosΓ© is a fierce queen, no doubt, but just not of this moment like Symone and Gottmik, both so original and exciting.

4. I love Kandy. I don’t care what the haters say, sorry. Perhaps my New York is showing, and it has something to do with having at least a loose grasp on what it means to grow up gay and effeminate in the South Bronx. Or maybe I just love a loud, delusional bitch! This was her sharpest runway by far, and she looked gorgeous in the performance. Watching someone be confident is always more fun than watching someone holding back, and Kandy is all confidence. Ultimately, the judges’ persistent refrain about how to work her natural Kandyness into the challenge will be her undoing. And yet, I’ll still show up for some pure Kandy any day. Not everybody is a quadruple threat, and even when they are (RosΓ©) it takes more than talent alone.

How would you rank the queens?


Sunday, April 11, 2021


When we only associate with like-minded people in our various communities, there often isn't room to grow, as new ideas aren't being introduced.

We tend to gravitate toward people who are the most like us, at least in the ways that make us feel comfortable. But life has its way of bringing us into contact with people who challenge us with their differences. It may be an obvious difference reflected in their outward appearance or an invisible but powerful philosophical stance, but even in our closest circle, there are those that confront us with their different ways of experiencing and expressing life. We can choose to resist, but we can also choose to learn from them and appreciate that they too have a place in the kaleidoscope of life.

As much as we may say that we want peace and quiet and a life without struggle, the truth is that human beings are, at this time, thriving in a world of dualities and challenges. It is how we choose to approach these hurdles that determine if we sail over them, confirming our agility, or trip and end up face down in the dust. And each of us absolutely will and must stumble, and then get up, brush the dust off and carry on. This is how we learn and grow, developing depth of character and shades of understanding. In a world of dualities, we have trouble defining ourselves without something opposite, and can't discover who we are. Without challenge, there is nothing to do and nothing to discover. That leaves us either in a state of non-being or the state of pure spirit, but as humans, we are spiritual beings experiencing the physical world in all of its startling contrast and beauty.

No matter how spiritual we are, our lives will have challenges.  We will always run into people that are different that we are, but the true challenge may be in finding ways to be at peace with this process. Rather than give in to the fight or flight response that comes from our animal nature, we can find new ways to evolve together into higher more beautiful expressions of ourselves, realizing, embracing and celebrating the beauty of diversity and the strength it offers for the future.